Friday, January 15, 2010


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)

The huolon reached Yanja at 10:00 pm. Sziem had cried much of the flight, and the family katt vomited up what smelled like partially digested shu. As they unpacked the cargo, Maar said to Abbo "We're taking them to her sib's Manage in Verzin."

"I know we're dropping them in Verzin" said Abbo irritably.

"No. If no one's at the jichang this late, we're carrying all that baggage to the door of their Manage, we're not just dropping Poth's family off" said Maar in a tight voice.

"Oh. Of course."

The Verzin Manage was small and everyone was asleep. Maar helped wipe down the katt and put some fisk in a bowl while the katt hid under the sideboard. She set the carrier outside the back door, then went to Thava and said "There's a kickball game here in Verzin tomorrow night. I'm taking my sibs and it would mean a lot for Thleen to have a chance to see Thont, plus my oldest sibu is Pava's age, maybe she could introduce her around. Would it be all right if I picked them up and took them to the game with us?"

Thava looked exhaustedly at Pava, who said "Please, emma." She said "Fine."

"We'll be here right after dinner" said Maar. She and Abbo flew to Riesig where she cadged a bunk at the Lofthall and slept until 7:00, getting up to run loads until noon before being dropped off on Chloddia. She talked with the jichang clerk and verified a small sinner would be available for her use at 6:30.

She considered her options. She could drop in on Su and Thleen at kickball camp, but their coach was a wood-ass and didn't like disruptions. If she went to the Manage, her emmas might be home and she didn't want to spend time with them until her sibs were there. She decided to go have lunch, then stop by the allotment center and pick up something to make dinner.

When she walked into the allotment center, the clerk, Roln, looked up and said "Hey, long time no see." Maar stopped by once a year to renew the standing authorization she left for her family to draw on her allotment. Roln had been three years ahead of her in school and, Maar thought, a little sweet on her but too shy to ever act on it.

"Heya, Roln. I'm thinking about making dinner for my family tonight amd I wanted to get fresh milk, butter, bacon for breakfast, some oranges. I was wondering if you have anything special in right now?"

"Well, first off, no oranges or lemons, sorry. We have some frozen chevon from Yagi, though" offered Roln.

"Uh, no goat meat, Thleen would object. What else, turkey, goose, duck?"

"Not this time of month. Most folks come around the first and that's when we have our high inventory. The other time we have stuff like that is mid-month, ten days ago. 'Course, your emma splits it up, comes both the first and mid-month" said Roln.

"Really? Why would she do that?"

"I figure it's because she has help carrying on the first, your sibs come with her and that's when she gets the heavy stuff like hundredweights of rice and flour, gallons of oil, basic staples, you know. Loads everybody down. But mid-month, she gets the luxury stuff 'cause she's on her own, on the day she has afternoons off, you know. It's still about all she can carry on her own, but she takes the short cut then." Roln pointed to the side door which led to a side alley. "Anyhow, all I can offer is a fryer or a pork tenderloin."

"I'll take both. And a ten-pound bag of dried apples." Part of Maar's brain was creating a menu. but another section was in overdrive, wondering why Adnes didn't bring Adon, at least, to help haul a second allotment load. The center was open until dinner, it wasn't like Adnes to exempt her children from chores.

Roln located Maar's account book and entered the items she was withdrawing today, pushing it across the counter for Maar to sign. After doing so, Maar flipped to the previous page, looking at her emma's withdrawals already this month.

"What are you looking for?" asked Roln, leaning on the counter.

"Just making sure what I'm getting today won't short-change 'em" said Maar easily.

"Ah, no, you won't. Though you are a credit to your family, Maar, they lean heavily on your allotment, Especially the luxury stuff. You feed them well."

"Thanks, Roln. Actually, that's an issue coming up for me. I don't know if you've heard, but I'm living in a Manage now on Pya, not the Lofthall, and I need to contribute to that upkeep, too. I need to do some planning, and as you know, in three years I've never looked over my account here -- "

"I've offered to at least mail you an annual tally" said Roln defensively.

"I know, I know, I've left it all to you. But I'm ready to be a grown-up now." Maar grinned her most charming grin. Roln relaxed. "So could you give me a back accounting for the past three years, is that too much to ask?"

"Right now?" asked Roln.

"No, no -- " began Maar.

"Because I've got a copier in the back, and nobody else is in line" said Roln. "You can come keep me company while I run this off for you."

"Sure" said Maar. She leaned against a cupboard and chatted with Roln as the old copier chugged through over a hundred copies. Mostly Maar would asked open-ended question and then pretend to listen with an interested expression while Roln rattled on. But Maar was picking up each sheet as it came out, scanning it with her quick eye, and assessing the quantities, the exact items, that she was certain were never reaching a table where Thleen sat down to a meal.

She folded the sheaf of pages into her pack and said "It's been great catching up with you, Roln, I'll try not to stay away so long next time." She picked up her packages and went out the side door.

Once it was closed behind her, she looked from one end of the short alley to the other. If she went left, it was a short-cut to the lane where her family Manage was. But if she went right, the alley emptied into Chloddia's small shops district. And at the corner of the alley, on the shops lane, was the general grocery with a main front door on the lane and a seldom-used side door which led to an alcove behind the counter. She turned right and went in the side door of the grocery.

The grocery was run by a woman who was some distant cousin, Maar couldn't remember how. Mostly she thought of her as Adnes's best friend. She didn't know what she was going to say when she went in the store, probably just buy lemons and corn meal.

But the voice which called out "Who's there?" belonged to Jomad, the owner's 14-year-old child. She came around the corner and said "Oh, it's you, Maar. Been to the allotment, I see."

"Yeah, I'm hoping you'll have some fresh citrus" said Maar. I'm moving from lie to lie like, well, Prl. Time for me to take the next step she reminded herself. "Where's your emma?"

"Taking a nap, got a headache" said Jomad. "I can help you. We got hothouse oranges and lemons both, from Pya, they'll cost ya."

"Let's start with a dozen of each" said Maar, piling her packages on the counter. "And I don't know if my family's bought certain spices recently, can I look at your ledger and save myself a trip back?"

"Hekp yourself" said Jomad, going to the cold case to bag the fruit. Maar turned to the A tab in the massive ledger and ran her eye down the account for Adnes. Almost every purchase -- and these were few except for way too many buckets of beer to Maar's liking -- were sold on credit. But then, every mid-month, the tab was marked paid in full.

So Adnes was paying nothing for her groceries each month, and instead trading luxury allotment items from Maar's account for the value of her purchases. Completely illegal under Skene law and prosecutable under several articles, including theft. Adnes's friend no doubt took a percentage for her risk and also received rare foodstuffs for resale.

Jomad was back at the counter with a bag of yellow and orange globes. "Anything else?"

Maar opened the corn meal bin and began scooping into a bag. "Yeah, those summer sausages hanging in your window, are they still fresh?"

"I suppose so" said Jomad.

"Would you climb up there and get me three of them?" asked Maar. Jomad picked up a stepladder and walked to the front of the store. Once she was out of sight, Maar neatly tore two past pages of Adnes's account from the ledger and folded them into her pocket, closing the ledger and pushing it aside before tying off her bag of cornmeal. She paid and left by the side door again.

She stood in the alley, breathing hard. She had been joking when she asked Pyosz if Prl coukd send them to Peisuo -- well, mostly joking -- but the papers she now had in her possession would do it. Adnes, at least, would be sentenced to exile for this many years of deliberate theft.

And what in the world were they doing with all the money they weren't spending on groceries? It wasn't in savings, because when an emergency came up, they asked her for help. Plus she paid for her sibs' clothing and pocket money, had done as part of the deal that allowed her to see them again after she offended by joining the Lofthall. What did they need so much extra money for, worth risking exile to obtain?

She shouldered her packages and walked to the kickball field, where the last practice of the day was ending. Thleen was muddy and exuberant, running to hug her. Su walked up from a different group and said "Hey, are those oranges?"

"Yeah, help yourself" said Maar. Su fished out two for herself, one for Thleen. Thleen had discovered the cured sausage, and Maar opened her claspknife to cut them all thick slices. She thought suddenly about how hungry her sibs always were, the evidence of her allotment's richer foodstuffs never reaching them, and her mind went briefly crimson with rage.

"Let's go home" said Maar. "I'm cooking dinner, and I have a sinner to take us all to the game on Verzin." Her sibs cheered, and Thleen cheered even more when she heard Thont was going with them.

Adon was at the Manage along with her emmas. Maar smiled at them in a way that made Dru glance at her a second time. She made no effort at apology, instead gliding into the kitchen and starting the tenderloin, while handing out chores to her sibs.

They ate all the fried chicken and most of the pork roast, a huge bowl of mashed potatoes, steamed kale with horseradish sauce, a pitcher of lemonade, and most of the apple pie. Maar asked lots of questions about Adon's new job, told funny stories about Pya the past week, and ignore the growing irritation from her emmas. Dru finally said to Adon "I guess it's just as well you're going into soft work, you don't have my stamina for actual labor. None of you really take after me." And that's when it all came clear to Maar.

She rushed her sibs through dishes and washing up for going out, whistling cheerfully. As they started out of the Manage, Maar stopped and said "Adon, will you take them on to the jichang office, I'll be there in ten minutes or less." Adon looked at her worriedly but complied swiftly. Once the zinc door was shut, Maar faced her emmas and said "I know what you've done. I know about skimming my allotment every month and reselling to the store for profit. I have copies of it all, proof enough to have you taken into custody tonight."

Adnes's complexion drained of color and she sat down in the nearest chair. Angry bluster remained on Dru's face, however. Maar grinned at her and said "And I know why you did it. It was your fault, emma, because the first three of us looked nothing like you and as we grew up, went to school, we didn't model ourselves after you. Not enough to please you. So once it was clear we were all disappointments, you went to the illegal curandera who was bypassing even normal medical safeguards and paid to have aggie get pregnant with your egg, emma. This child, the fourth you were turned down for by the Genist -- this child would be Dru's legacy. That was the plan, right?" Maar's words had become biting, and Dru's bravado disappeared.

"Only here came Thleen, another version of me. And to make matters a total disaster, that rogue curandera began extorting you, threatening to reveal how you had broken the law if you didn't pay her a monthly sum. Not enough to bleed you dry, but enough to keep you without any extra, desperate for a way out, and never having the guts to call her bluff. Because it would expose your vanity, wouldn't it, Dru, if you confessed and called her bluff. But then I joined the Lofthall, and you figured out how you could cheat me to make your payments."

Maar had to stop for a minute, as anger swept through her again.

"Well, the jig is up. You better be glad Adon is on her own because you can't steal from me or Skene any more. I'm revising my allotment authorization so it's only Su who can draw from it, and she gets to choose what she wants to bring home. Adon is covered, thanks to me, and Thleen -- Thleen is mine now. She'll be moving to Pya permanently next week, you have until the end of kickball camp to come up with a face-saving story about why you let her go to Pya. And on my end, I won't send you to Peisuo. I'll handle the extorter, she's actually well-known to the Genist and others, you're not the first idiots she's scammed this way. She'll never approach you again. I'm going to take my sibs to the game now, and you can stare at each other in the debris of this Manage. The four of us are going to be fine in spite of you, because I'll make sure of it."

Maar shouldered her pack and reached for the door knob. Before turning it, she had one last volley, the only sentence she'd spoken that she wasn't certain was the truth. "Oh, and just so you know? That curandera was infamous for not actually using the second egg she was given. Instead she mixed the aggie's egg with a Y contribution from one of her unscrupulous relatives. Thleen is no connection to you at all, Dru, not by flesh and not by spirit." She was hacking at a tether in Thleen's life, she knew. She counted on replacing it with much, much more.

She was in crazy high spirits the rest of the evening. Pava and Adon didn't become instant friends but they didn't hate each other, either. Maar bought them all whatever treat they requested and kept leaping to her feet to scream for the visiting team, scandalizing her sibs but making Pava laugh every time. She walked her sibs to the Manage at 11:00, where the lights were out and her emmas in bed. She helped get Thleen in her schmatta and up the ladder with Su before walking Adon to her new bucky. She then went to the jichang office and spread blankets on the couch. She made a cup of tea and picked up the radio to call Pyosz.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Blue said...

Hot Damn!

Margot said...

I love the way each generation bypasses the Skene legislature with secrets to keep difficult family members off Peisuo, and keep the functional parts of the family together.

C. Diva said...

how did Maar know about the curandera? did I miss something?

Maggie Jochild said...

Pyosz had heard about it from Prk a few months earlier and it wasn't part of the "secret" information, so assume anything Pyosz CAN tell Maar, she has. But what happened in this instance is that every single scrap Maar had picked up along the way, all the clues, coalesced because of the pressure she was under ti perform. and she finally saw the big picture in a way she had not been able to/didn't want to before.

Blue said...

I was also confused about how Maar got the curandera info. I didn't remember it from earlier.

Maggie Jochild said...

Chapter One has a description of the "rogue curandera on Verzin" who made money from Prl's release of the new conception method. (Chapter Three has Prl identifying this as Ried to Pyosz after Ferk died. Yeah, I had Ried targeted all along.) But you are excused for not remembering these little clues 50 chapters ago, there's a lot going on, eh?